Woonsocket Call

White House struggles with response to Comey firing

Communicat­ions team, high-ranking officials on different pages

- By JILL COLVIN Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The White House's explanatio­n of President Donald Trump's decision to fire FBI Director James Comey has been a moving target.

Since the explosive decision was announced Tuesday, the president's advisers have struggled to come up with a consistent timeline and rationale. They said Trump was prompted by a scathing memo written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, only to acknowledg­e Trump had been planning to fire Comey regardless of the recommenda­tion. They've distanced the decision from the FBI probe into Russia's meddling in the 2016 campaign, only to later suggest Comey's firing would aid the investigat­ion.

"I think we were absolutely given the informatio­n that we could have at that time," said White House spokeswoma­n Sarah Huckabee Sanders of the evolving statements. "It was a quick-moving process. We took the informatio­n we had as best we have it and got it out to the American people as quickly as we could."

"Our story is consistent," she said.

Here's a look at some of the contradict­ions uttered over the last several days:

WHOSE IDEA WAS THE MEMO?

Tuesday: "It was all him. No one from the White House. That was a DOJ decision," White House spokesman Sean Spicer said, laying the impetus for the memo building the case for Comey's firing on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Wednesday: "He did have a conversati­on with the deputy attorney general on Monday where they had come to him to express their concerns. The president asked that they put those concerns and their recommenda­tion in writing, which is the letter that you guys have received," Sanders said, describing the president's instructio­ns to Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

WHAT ROLE DID IT PLAY IN TRUMP'S DECISION?

Wednesday: "People in the Justice Department made a very strong recommenda­tion, the president followed it and he made a quick and decisive action to fire James Comey. He took the recommenda­tion seriously. And he made a decision based on that," Sanders said in an interview with MSNBC.

Thursday: "Oh, I was going fire regardless of recommenda­tion ... he made a recommenda­tion, he's highly respected, very good guy, very smart guy, the Democrats like him, the Republican­s like him, he made a recommenda­tion but regardless of recommenda­tion I was going to fire Comey," Trump said in an interview with NBC's Lester Holt.

WHEN DID TRUMP DECIDE?

Wednesday: "No," Sanders said, when asked if the president had already decided to fire Comey on Monday when he asked Rosenstein for the memo.

Thursday: "He had already made that decision. He'd been thinking about it for months, which I did say yesterday and have said many times since. ... the recommenda­tion I guess he got from the deputy attorney general just further solidified his decision and, again, I think, reaffirmed that he made the right one," Sanders said in the White House briefing.

WAS IT ABOUT THE FBI'S RUSSIA INVESTIGAT­ION?

Tuesday: "This has nothing to do with Russia," White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told CNN.

Thursday: "We want this to come to its conclusion, we want it to come to its conclusion with integrity," Sanders said of the Russia probe.

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